7 Techniques To Relieve Stress And Anxiety

Stress has become a common occurrence in modern life, with research showing that at least 78%¹ of US adults feel stressed at least one day a week while about 15%¹ feel stressed every day.

Since anxiety is a frequent reaction to stress, the two are known to go hand in hand. When anxiety and stress unexpectedly disrupt your day, try these techniques to relieve symptoms. 

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We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Anxiety, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

Step away from social media

When you're feeling anxious and stressed out, step away from social media instead of using it as a coping mechanism or distraction. Recent research indicates that online platforms like social media aggravate mental health problems and cause more stress and anxiety, despite many of us seeing it as a way to relax and “switch off.”

A 2020 study² found that social media itself doesn’t worsen stress and anxiety, but the amount of time spent prioritizing social media instead of in-person social interactions negatively impacts depression, anxiety, and stress.

Social media is a great way to stay in contact with friends and loved ones wherever they may live, but a 70% increase in self-reported depressive symptoms was found among people who spent significant amounts of time on social media compared to offline interactions.

Another 2020 study³ examined the effects of mental distress associated with media exposure on US adults during the pandemic. Although many people looked to social media and other online media outlets for entertainment, information, and COVID-related stress relief, the study found that those who spent more time on social media reported increased levels of mental distress.

Learn more about the relationship between mental health and social media.

Engage in physical activity 

Not only can regular exercise reduce stress and anxiety in the long term, but engaging in your favorite physical activities when experiencing stress and anxiety can also be beneficial for your well-being at the moment.

A 2014 study⁴ found that exercising regularly had a significantly increased positive effect on mood and elation after experiencing stress. However, was not found among people who didn't exercise regularly, suggesting that regular exercise makes you more resilient during times of stress. 

According to a 2020 review⁵ of several studies, exercise was found to substantially improve anxiety symptoms. Resistance training was shown to regulate cortisol levels, which plays an important role in the onset of stress and anxiety.

Yoga, in particular, has a positive impact on people with severe stress and anxiety symptoms through its variety of calming poses, breath control, and meditation.

Use all five senses

For a quick way to reduce your stress and anxiety, it can be helpful to follow these steps:

  • Acknowledge that you're stressed – Step back and assess the situation to acknowledge how you are feeling in the moment.

  • Identify your symptoms – Check in with yourself to identify what symptoms you are experiencing. These could include agitation, anger, helplessness, feeling overwhelmed, sadness, shaking, racing heartbeat, or others.

Use all five senses to reduce stress and anxiety:

  • Look at things that bring you joy, as family and pets, or go for a walk and take in your surroundings.

  • Smell a scented candle or essential oils. 

  • Feel the soft fabric of a comfy blanket or the soft fur of a cat. 

  • Taste a piece of dark chocolate or chew on gum. 

  • Listen to your favorite song or outdoor noises.

According to a 2017 study⁶, spending time in nature and using all of our five senses can offer benefits for our mental and physical well-being. The report showed that stimulating multiple senses at the same time could have a positive impact on stress and anxiety levels, especially when outdoors in nature.

Virtual versus in-person experiments reported in the study found that while a virtual experience of nature reduced stress, participants still responded negatively because they preferred the full multi-sensory experience of being outdoors in a natural setting. 

Laughter is the best medicine 

If you feel anxiety and stress overwhelming you, remember that laughter is the best medicine. It can be difficult to experience severe symptoms of stress and anxiety when you're laughing.

According to a 2016 study⁷, just the act of laughing itself can create a positive response. According to additional studies cited in the findings, individuals who participated in laughter yoga therapy experienced decreased anxiety and depression compared to those who didn't participate.

Researchers also noted an increase in overall life satisfaction among those who participated in this therapy. These benefits were similar to those of spontaneous laughter, which is more genuine and less deliberate.

Bring more humor to your day by:

  • Watching funny videos, comedy stand-ups, or a comedy movie

  • Calling up a friend or family member for a good laugh

  • Reading or looking at funny cartoons, comics, or books

Go green

Spending time in nature has been positively associated with mental and physical wellbeing since ancient times. Being outside often inspires creativity, promotes physical activity and health, improves mood, and reduces stress and anxiety.

According to a 2018 study⁸, being in a natural environment can have a strong impact on reducing psychological stress. The study used three locations to represent different levels of nature (in the wilderness, a park, and inside a building).

The results revealed that participants’ worries decreased in all three locations, but levels of joy increased significantly more in the first two locations (wilderness and park). 

Similarly, a 2019 study⁹ found that spending at least two hours a week out in nature is linked to good health and well-being.

The report found no difference between spending even one minute compared to 119 minutes in nature, finding that even a minuscule amount of time had immense benefits. However, the study found consistently higher levels of health and well-being among those who spent two hours or more in a natural environment every week.

Don’t hold back the tears

Research shows that having a good cry can have many positive impacts on your health and well-being. When you're feeling stressed and anxious, crying can help you self-soothe, release tension, relieve pain, enhance your mood, and improve overall well-being.

According to a 2014 study¹⁰, crying can serve a self-soothing function as long as it isn't a result of embarrassment or response to comfort from another person. While the study did not determine whether tear production, sobbing, or distressing talks impacted people most in the study, the results found that crying activated the parasympathetic nervous system, which triggers relaxation.

The study also found that participants released endorphins and oxytocin when they cried. These hormones play a role in boosting mood and relieving pain. Further research found¹¹ that 73% of men and 85% of women felt less angry and sad after crying.

A 2017 study¹² supported similar findings, observing that crying alone can be a way of seeking internalized representations of caregivers, and crying around other people can be a way to seek help and support from friends and family. In both teary settings, the person crying can benefit socially. 

Positive self-talk

It can be helpful to remind yourself that you're only human and doing your best. Aiming for perfection can add more anxiety and stress to your everyday life. Taking smaller, more realistic steps towards your goals will keep you motivated and make you feel more accomplished along the journey.

Acknowledging and celebrating all of your achievements, no matter how small, is also important. Speak positively to yourself instead of focusing on what you think you're doing wrong. Build a more optimistic mindset, which can be great for managing anxiety and reducing the risk of developing other mental health issues.

When you practice positive self-talk, you can experience health benefits¹³ including:

  • Reduced stress, anxiety, and depression 

  • Increased lifespan

  • Better physical and emotional wellbeing 

  • Stronger immune system

  • Better coping skills to deal with stressful situations

The lowdown

There are many steps you can take to relieve anxiety and stress. The common ones we all hear are to take a deep breath, distract yourself, or count slowly to ten, for instance.

On top of these, you can try the following techniques to reduce more challenging symptoms of stress and anxiety:

  • Limit social media use and spend more time in-person with friends and family.

  • Increase your physical activity to boost well-being and manage stress and anxiety. 

  • Use your five senses to center and calm yourself.

  • Get out in nature to decrease stress and increase joy.

  • Laugh as often as you can to counter negative emotions.

  • Don’t hold back the tears, as a good cry with loved ones enables you to get support and reduce stress.

  • Speak positively to yourself and celebrate your achievements.

Have you considered clinical trials for Anxiety?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Anxiety, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

Joining community groups and exercise programs for my condition made me feel empowered – but I want to be part of finding a cure.
Peter, 64

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